The language in this verse refers to God declaring in advance what will happen in the future. This is a question that spotlights His prophetic ability, and especially His exclusive ability do so. The Bible is full of fulfilled prophecy; more than 60 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled on the day Jesus was crucified. Time does not permit the ability to explore many of these, but I would refer you to ten chapters further in Isaiah and to read chapter 53 and reflect on how accurately it depicts the death of Jesus. In this verse, He is challenging any skeptic to show even one example that shows that anyone else has this ability, and while the skeptic is silenced the believers should be comforted to know that He is a God who can definitively proclaim the future. In this He has no rivals.
He is unrivaled in time, and He is not just existing in time but expressing His will through time. Note well the time frames in this verse. First of all…
He operates in the past
It is He that “appointed the ancient people.” Here, He is looking back to expose His sovereign control. The people of the past were appointed, literally “placed” by God. One only has to look at the historical sections of the Bible to see everywhere His hand at work. We can likewise see His had operating in our lives and we should mark well the places along our path were He has involved Himself in our lives
He operates in the present
This is seen in this line: “and the things that are coming.” God is operating in the midst of things that were then coming to pass in the present. The trends, events, movements, circumstances and happenings of their day are connected back to the same verb “appointed” as the events of the past. He alone can appoint the events that unfold in present time to be in accordance with His will. But we are not finished. Also…
He operates in the future
Lastly He appoints “the things that are coming and shall come.” This final terminology focuses our attention on the future. Just as surely as He has appointed the past and present, His appointment, His placing, His setting of the future is likewise sure and good as done. God is the only One who can operate in the future as well as the past and present
Our heavenly Father wants us to know that the One who speaks in the past and prophesies concerning the future also traces the arc of our lives through time by means of His controlling, loving, powerful hand. Based on that, how does that help us in these troubling times in which we live? Simply, He is in control at all times!